Monday, June 8, 2009

The Runner's Diet: 6 Tips

I'm a nervous wreck. My husband is getting ready to run his 9th marathon this week. The fact that he's done this 8 times before should mean NO PROBLEM, right? Well, if you remember his last marathon, I let you in on a little husband is a wait-until-the-last-possible-second-to-start-training-to-run-a-measly-26.2-miles-kind-a-guy. About a month ago, he came out of hibernation and started running. As a training bonus, he's been riding his bike to work. But the longest run my DH has yet to complete in his latest bout of training is about 8 miles. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. That's not very many when he has to run 26.2 in a few days! If he acted at all worried about it, then I wouldn't be. But one of us has to worry!!! Why is it always me?

Another aspect of training that my husband waits until the last few hours to worry about, is his diet. This morning, realizing that the race is just days away, he nonchalantly sauntered into the kitchen asking, "So, babe...what do you think I should be eating this week?" Are you kidding me?!?! I didn't have an immediate answer. Can't he hear the echo of my nagging voice? "You really need to eat better if you think you're going to run a marathon in June." NOW he decides to care! So yes...I have tips for the next week. But really, I have tips for what he should have been doing ALL ALONG. I bring you my top diet tips for runners:

  1. If you're just a normal runner, don't eat like an elite runner. If you're only running a few miles, you don't need to load up on energy drinks, bars, and gels. Calories still count...even for runners!
  2. The Runner's Diet consists of a 50-25-25 plan. 50% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% from protein, and 25% from fat.
  3. I'm not a calorie counter, but if you know how many calories you're aiming for in a given day, half of them should come from carbs. Because carbohydrates provide the fuel you need for a run, plan to eat them just before and just after your runs. Opt for fiber-rich carbs with high water content.
Load up on these carbs:

Fruits (about 60 calories per serving)
Apple, orange, pear, nectarine
Peach, plum
Fresh pineapple
Canned fruit (in its own juice)

Low-Starch Vegetables (about 25 calories per serving)
Carrots, celery, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, leeks, onions, green beans
Green pepper
Lettuce/raw greens
100-percent vegetable juice

Carbs to eat a bit more sparingly:

High-Starch Vegetables (about 80 calories per serving)
Beans (lima, navy, pinto)
Baked white or sweet potato with skin

Pasta/Rice (about 80 calories per serving)
Couscous (cooked)
Brown or white rice (cooked)
Noodles/pasta (cooked)
Bulgur (cooked)

Breads/Cereal/Crackers (about 80 calories per serving)
Tortilla (wheat)
100-percent whole-wheat bread
English muffin: 1/2
Pretzels: 3/4 ounce or 8 sourdough nuggets
Popcorn (air popped): 3 cups
Saltine crackers: 6
Rice cakes (all varieties, large): 2
High-fiber cereals: 3/4 cup
Oatmeal: 2/3 cup cooked or 1 instant packet

4. Choose lean protein! Not only does protein help with muscle recovery, it also keeps you full longer!

Protein Selections:

Very lean (about 35 calories per serving)
Chicken or turkey breast (skinless)
Fish fillet (all whitefish)
Canned, water-packed tuna
Egg whites
Egg substitute

Lean (about 55 calories per serving)
Chicken or turkey (skinless dark meat)
Salmon, swordfish, herring, trout, bluefish
Lean beef (flank steak, top round, ground sirloin)
Veal or lamb (roast or lean chop)
Pork (tenderloin)
Canadian bacon
Low-fat hot dogs
Low-fat luncheon meats

Dairy Products (about 90 calories per serving)
Fat-free or 1-percent-fat cottage cheese (calcium fortified)
Low-fat, sugar-free yogurt
Fat-free, sugar-free yogurt
Low-fat cheese (all types)

5. Before you cut fat out of your diet, think again! Foods with a little healthy fat help slow digestion, and keep you full longer! 25 percent of a runner's calories should come from heart-healthy vegetable, nut, and fish fat sources.

Try the following fats of choice:

Fat sources (about 50 calories per serving)
All oils: 1 teaspoon
Avocado (medium): 1/8
Almonds, cashews, filberts: 6
Peanuts: 10
Pistachios: 15
Olives (green or black): 8 medium
Peanut butter (creamy or chunky): 1 teaspoon

6. Make sure you know your daily running schedule ahead of time, so you can plan your 50-25-25 eating plan around your runs. The bulk of your carbs should be eaten around your runs. Leave the high calorie energy bars and gels for race day, and fuel up during training with mother nature's choice: food!!!!
For more running tips, check out runner's world! Wish my hubby luck! And wish me, the spectator, luck! Not to give myself all the credit, but hauling two kids around to cheer on daddy is a lot more work than just running from start to finish. I'd trade any day! Well...maybe...just not on Saturday!


Anonymous said...

Oh my heck I can't believe he just started training! I would be a complete wreck! and well lets face it I wouldn't make it! Good luck to both of you! :)

Michael said...

He's crazy. I couldn't believe it when you told me he was running a marathon in a few days. Crazy!

Oklahoma Running Mom said...

I just discovered your blog and totally love it. I also love the food advice. I always feel like eating the right thing before a race and during training is so complicated. Thanks for making it easier.

Jim said...

You said:
"Before you cut fat out of your diet, think again! Foods with a little healthy fat help slow digestion, and keep you full longer!"

Great advice! A lot of people avoid healthy plant-based monounsaturated fats, for all the wrong reasons.

Lindy Merkley said...

Ahh...don't we all wish we could be men? seriously it seems like they all have this MO. Thanks for the eating tips...are you carbing up this ready to run in the...umm snow?